Did you know you that you are putting your neck at risk by reading this? Yes, every time you spend time on your mobile device, tablet or computer you are “straining” your neck muscles. In fact, it is likely that the posture you are holding to read this is causing you to hurt your neck. Not surprisingly, neck pain is common among adults. In the course of a year, about 15% of all US adults have neck pain that lasts at least one full day.
Neck pain can develop suddenly, such as from an injury, traffic accident, a fall or stumble. It may also develop slowly over time, such as from years of poor posture or wear and tear. We are now spending more time sitting in front of computers or tablets or TV than ever before. This posture very quickly impacts on our day to day function. It is not surprising therefore that once neck pain does occur it usually interferes with the daily activity very quickly and can be very difficult to control.
In many cases the pain can be alleviated with self-care techniques, such as rest, applying ice or hot dressings, improving your posture. Physiotherapy, muscle massage or TENS application is another practical step that helps relieve symptoms. For many these “tricks” work or at least seem to work and individuals are back at work, enjoying life once again.
If the symptoms do not settle what should you lookout for?
Dr. Hegarty (Clinical Director Pain Relief Ireland) notes that very often individuals ignore very simple signs and suffer unnecessarily. “Early recognition and by taking some simple steps can make all the difference” according to Dr. Hegarty. Common symptoms associated with persistent neck pain usually involves one or more of the following:
Stiff NeckSoreness and difficulty moving the neck, especially when trying to turn the head from side to side.
Sharp painThis symptom can be pain localized to one spot and might feel like it’s stabbing or stinging. Often, this type of pain occurs in the lower levels of the neck.
The pain is mostly in one spot or area on the neck, and it’s described as tender or achy, not sharp.
The pain can radiate along a nerve from the neck into the shoulders and arms. The intensity can vary and this nerve pain might feel like it’s burning or searing.
Tingling, numbness, or weakness
These sensations can go beyond the neck and radiate into the shoulder, arm or finger. There could be a “pins-and-needles” sensation. Typically, pain that radiates down the arm is felt in only one arm, not both
Trouble with gripping or lifting objectsThis can happen if tingling, numbness, or weakness in the fingers is present.
Sometimes an irritation in the neck can also affect muscles and nerves connected to the head. This could be a tension headache, such as from neck muscles tightening; or occipital neuralgia, where a pinched occipital nerve in the neck causes pain to radiate up into the head’s sides and scalp.
If neck pain symptoms progress, it can become difficult to sleep, tiredness adds to the frustration and shortly even those around you are effected.
This type of pain may also interfere with other daily activities, such as getting dressed or going to work, or any activity that involves turning the head, such as driving. Increasing neck pain with associated weakness, numbness and tingling is a concern and the physician should be contacted promptly for further evaluation.
If you suffer these symptoms then you should speak with your doctor who will be able to guide you. Sometimes simple investigations can be very useful. Pain Relief Ireland specialises in cervical / neck pain offering a whole range of treatment and procedural options. We can offer you real opportunities to get the pain relief you deserve. Contact us to day and make an appointment investigations may reveal the cause
The Cervical Spine and What Can Go Wrong
The neck, or cervical spine, has the important job of providing support and mobility for the head, which can weigh about 11 pounds—the approximate weight of a medium bowling ball.
The cervical spine begins at the base of the skull and through a series of seven vertebral segments, named C1 though C7, connects to the thoracic, or chest, region of the spine, at the C7-T1 level.
With the exception of the top level of the cervical spine, which primarily provides rotation for the skull, most levels of the cervical spine can be described as follows:
A pair of facet joints connect two vertebrae, enabling forward, backward, and twisting motions. These help neck movement. These are commonly injured in road traffic accidents.
In between the vertebrae is a disc, which provides cushioning, spacing, and coordination. Over time these reduce in size. This is termed "degenerative change" (wear and tear). Having degenerative change alone is not an indication of pain.
Nerve Roots extend from the spinal cord and exit through the neural foramina (holes in the bones) located on the left and right sides of the spine. These fibres are responsible for the power (motor control) and sensations in your neck, arms and hands. Depending the location of the injury individuals present with different symptoms
Most problems with the cervical spine develop over time, but they can also be caused or accelerated by an injury.
Various problems in the cervical spine can compress a nerve root or the spinal cord and cause neck pain and/or neurological (pinched nerve) symptoms. A few examples would be if a disc degenerated and pushed into a nerve, or similarly if bony spurs grew on facet joints to the point that they encroached on a nerve.
When is Neck pain serious?
Some symptoms associated with neck pain could indicate the health of a nerve root or the spinal cord is at risk, or perhaps there is an underlying disease or infection. These symptoms can include radiating pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness into the shoulders, arm, or hands; neurological problems with balance, walking, coordination, or bladder and bowel control; fever or chills; and other troublesome symptoms.
In addition, severe neck pain from a trauma, such as a car crash or falling down steps, needs emergency care. Before transporting a person in that situation, the neck should be immobilized by a trained professional to reduce the risk for paralysis and other complications.